The Thing 1982

This Wild Card Wednesday, we have another installment of the series I do with Tiffany A. White on movie originals vs. remakes.  This month’s movie was The Thing.  Tiffany did the remake—which we learned was not actually a remake but a prequel. As usual, I did the original.

[Note to self: I wonder if it ends up this way because I’m a little more long in the tooth than Tiffany. Add to list of things to think about.]


Appreciation of any movie, book, or other piece of art is heightened by learning about the person who shared his vision.

John Carpenter directed The Thing. He also played a bit part as one of the Norwegian scientists at the beginning of the movie. Before The Thing, John Carpenter had already made a name with films such as Assault on Precinct 13, Halloween, Escape from New York, The Fog and The Eyes of Laura Mars.

John Carpenter’s style was influenced by directors John Ford and Howard Hawks. Preferring the widescreen (or Panavision format), Carpenter creates stylish, detailed sets that orient the audience to his vision. He uses minimal lighting for a dark, gritty atmosphere and is known for writing his own scores.

Listen to a compilation of John Carpenter’s scores below:

Now that we have established that I’m a Level 3 Nerd Fan of John Carpenter, let’s move on to The Thing.

The Thing (1982)

The Thing (1982) is sometimes considered a remake of the 1951 Howard Hawks film The Thing from Another World.  The two movies, however, are simply based on the same source material, which is the John W. Campbell novella “Who Goes There?” (1938). Of the two movies, John Carpenter’s The Thing follows the plot of “Who Goes There” more closely.

Plot summary of The Thing:

Scientists in the Antarctic are confronted by a shape-shifting alien that assumes the appearance of the people that it kills. (Courtesy of IMDB.Com)

Watch the trailer:

The Thing starred Kurt Russell (who is on my “he’s hot” list).  The movie spent three weeks in the box office top ten.  Despite its popularity, The Thing lost out at awards time to E. T. and Poltergeist.

Kurt Russel in The Thing

John Carpenter is known for changing the slasher horror genre with his film Halloween.  With The Thing, Carpenter influenced the way horror cinema approached special effects.  Film critic Robert Ebert praised the film’s special effects, saying “among the most elaborate, nauseating, and horrifying sights yet achieved by Hollywood’s new generation of visual magicians.”

Rob Bottin—who worked on both The Howling and The Fog—did most of the special effects.

My favorite was the one where the head turned into a spider:

The dog effect–which is equally gruesome–was done by Stan Winston.

Though John Carpenter is known for doing his own movie scores, he hired Ennio Morricone to do the score for The Thing.  Though Morricone was known for creating  scores for westerns, he captured the style John Carpenter used in his other films.   His theme does its job in completing the movie’s eerie, barren atmosphere.

At The Thing’s core—and what makes it such a cool movie—is watching paranoia overcome and divide the human characters. The shape-shifting alien can imitate its host perfectly. How do you hunt something like that?

The humans in the film turn on each other with accusations and murder attempts. They imprison one guy in a outbuilding. They create tests to try to figure out which one is hosting the thing.

This clip is a lighthearted moment at the end of a test devised to find the monster:

The Thing is a horror classic. It marked the beginning of “barf bag” special effects in horror movies. It’s a study in human nature. I’ve probably seen it no fewer than twenty times, and I still cringed at certain parts while I rewatched it for this blog post.

Be sure to check out Tiffany A. White’s review on the 2011 The Thing on Friday of this week.

If you enjoyed this article, you might enjoy my fiction. Please take a moment to check it out either on my Looking For More? page or on my Amazon Author Page. I write both horror and paranormal mystery fiction. The topics I research for this blog serve as my inspiration.


The Thing by Robert Ebert, January 1, 1982

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Outpost 31: The Thing

25 thoughts on “The Thing 1982

  1. Dang, I was hoping for a shot of Kurt in that crazy hat at the beginning of the film! 😀 Holy smoking tentacles this has long been a favorite of mine, and one of the best characters for Kurt right behind “Call me Snake” in Escape from New York and those glorious sideburns in 3000 Miles to Graceland. You’re right about it being one of the first to go for the gross out special effects, with one of the most powerful being the horrific dissolving dog. I watch it every time I find it on television and I miss seeing Kurt on screen.
    Aside: I think you said you also watch Top Shot. Colby D. was on Twitter last summer asking for suggestions for season five and I suggested a celebrity Top Shot. He tweeted back that it was a great idea and wanted to know which celebrities were ace shooters, adding the caveat that they had to be ‘legitimate’ celebrities. I told him about Kurt Russell holding a once a year celebrity outing at his ranch and that he should just tap Kurt for his guest list. How fun would it be to see Kurt on Top Shot?

    • Escape from New York is also one of my favorite movies. I was not as fond of Escape from LA. And I knew we had a lot in common, but you like 3000 Miles to Graceland?! I totally love that movie. Kevin Costner played a great bad guy, and Kurt Russell’s sideburns were awesome.

      The dog effect was repulsive. And I’m a dog person, so I was especially horrified. I’d never own an Alaskan Malamute, but I think they’re gorgeous dogs. I hated to see that happen to them, even if it was make believe.

      We do watch Top Shot. My husband is into marksmanship and shooter education. He’d never let us miss something like Top Shot. I think it would be awesome to see Kurt Russell on the show. He could have a showdown with Ted Nugent. LOL

  2. Kurt Russell was definitely hot in The Thing and many other movies. It’s been a long time since I saw it, but it freaked me out. The dog especially – I still squirm when I think about it, lol. I will say this movie’s acting holds up better than others, like Halloween, as do the special effects. It’s still got that creepy, classic edge that outweighs the flashy, modern digital age.

    • That dog scene was gross, cringe worthy, and I don’t know what else. But it got my attention, and I think that was the purpose.

      I loved the storytelling techniques used in The Thing. It starts out with the Norwegian Scientists trying to shoot the dog. They stumble on the American’s camp and shoot at them, which ultimately leads to both their deaths. So the American camp is clueless to what just took place. I love the way the story unfolds in discoveries made by different characters. By midway through the movie, you have a really clear idea of what happened at the Norwegian camp and know that it’s about to happen at the American camp.

      I still watch a lot of horror. I find now that it’s not the special effects that wow me. It’s the horror movies that explore the human psyche that scare the fire out of me.

      Thanks for stopping by.

  3. I’ve also seen the original, Catie, but it’s been years. I should introduce it to my 13-year-old daughter and see how she likes it. I have seen all the Halloween movies and, don’t ask me why, I’m a fan of Michael Myers, I guess. And I love Jamie Lee Curtis as well as the doctor who I believe has passed away. Great cast.
    Thanks for the memories.

    • Oooh, you should get your daughter to watch it. I think it’s an absolute classic and a must for any horror or sci-fi fan.

      The Halloween movies are awesome. I did not like Rob Zombie’s remake as well as I liked the originals by John Carpenter. That said, I thought Rob Zombie did interesting stuff with the movie. There was something about Jamie Lee Curtis and Donald Pleasance, though. They really made Halloween what it was.

      Thanks for stopping by. 😀

  4. I’m a John Carpenter fan, too! My favorite horror movie is Halloween. I really liked The Thing as well. And OMG…Kurt Russell is sooo hot! I haven’t seen the remake yet, but it’s on my list. Maybe I’ll get to before Friday’s post from Tiffany. I’ll try anyway. Have a great day, Catie!

    • Another John Carpenter fan. I love it. Halloween is, IMHO, the quintessential John Carpenter. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre came first in terms of slasher movies, but I think Halloween lent the genre a style that endured until the genre went out of fashion.

      And Kurt Russell. He was prettier than most women. LOL

      You have a great day, too, Rhonda. 😀

  5. Long in the tooth. Please…. I don’t think the tiny difference is even enough to count. :)

    Okay, so I hadn’t seen the original The Thing in years and didn’t really remember much about it. Luckily for us, it was on the movie channels a few weeks ago and we set the DVR to record it. First, Kurt Russell was HOT. I don’t think I ever really thought so before. Even with his full-on beard, he was one pretty, pretty man. Second, the movie is damn scary. My guy and I both jumped a few times. Third, I could have done without the dog scene. You know what I’m talking about. Yuck! And fourth, for a movie produced in 1982, the special effects are amazing…

    John Carpenter is brilliant. I’m a big fan, although maybe not as much as you.

    But that’s all for now. I don’t want to say too much in case I want to blog about it Friday when I do the remake/prequel. GREAT post, Catie. As usual.

    • I knew you’d respond to that long in the tooth comment. I laughed as I typed it.

      I probably DVRed the same airing of The Thing as y’all did. Like you, I was struck at how scary this movie still is. I hadn’t seen it in years either. This time, I noted the horror of the paranoia. Can you imagine being isolated with a group of people who suspected you of something they’d have to kill you to fix? I mean, when you get that far out into the wilderness, the law can’t protect you. And nobody can hear you scream. **shudders**

      I am looking forward to reading your Friday blog and will change the links within this blog to link directly to that post. Thanks for stopping by.

  6. on ,
    Dave said:

    I have never seen “The Thing”. I don’t ever intend to. “Aliens” was enough for me. I have found that I’m adverse to freaky gore and violence. Regular gore and violence such as in a war movie is okay but I just don’t like that rotten, disease ridden, maggot-like, evil, filth typical of these pictures. I have a hard time defining this material as “entertainment”. Aliens was a masterpiece. The Thing probably is too. Not my cup of tea though.

    I have always liked Kurt Russell. He is one of those actors that seemed to get more appealing with age. My wife thinks he’s hot.

    Nice post Catie.

    • You made me grin. Gore is one of my guilty pleasures. It’s interesting to me. I lean forward and squint, trying to see all the details the special effects artists put into it. Sure, I know I’ll see them in my nightmares later, but that’s part of the fun. Alien (and the sequels) are fantastic.

      But I do get what you mean about it not being your cup of tea. My dad loves Westerns and Action movies. He can never understand my fascination with horror. As we’ve both aged and become more tolerant of each other, he has started pointing out “gross” stuff to me. But I think he still shakes his head as I squint and lean forward, trying to figure out just what I’m seeing.

      One of my favorite Kurt Russell movies is Tombstone. I think at that point, Kurt had finally gotten weatherbeaten enough to go from pretty to ruggedly handsome.

      Thanks for stopping by. 😀

  7. The premise sounds great, but I also don’t do well with gore…at all. I love suspense and action, and the psychology of the story sounds cool. But just the photos here of the yuck-factor stuff makes me cringe. I know, I’m a wimp. I need the “edited for family TV” version. 😉 Maybe I should just read the novella.

    • We all have that thing we can’t stand, and yours is cool with me. You know, I would have trouble with the novella. Anything written too long ago gives me fits…and takes me forever to read. So if you do read the novella, let me know what you think.

      For what it’s worth, I think my husband is occasionally mortified at what I find interesting and entertaining. 😀

      • We do share this, Catie: I’m not a romantic chick flick fan. When we pick movies, I usually suggest the action-packed, gun-toting, hero-type films. I’m obviously okay with screen slaughter, just not up close. :)

  8. By coincidence, my hubby and I just finished watching both versions of “The Thing” last week. I have to say I still prefer the original version, with James Arness as the creature. I remember seeing it when it first came out, and it was scary. I like the scary and suspenseful type horror movies as opposed to the gory ones. The beginning of the second one is marvelous, though, with the scenes of the poor dog being chased and shot at. I think my all-time scary movie is “Them” – its the only movie that’s ever given me nightmares. We’ve always liked Kurt Russell. One of our favorites of his (besides, of course, the “Escape” movies) is “Tango and Cash” co-starring Sylvester Stallone. The banter between the two is great.

    • I have never watched “Them.” I think I need to do so because I am not even sure what it’s about. Though I would like to see the new prequel, I know the original will always be a favorite.

      Many of my favorite horror movies are fairly devoid of special effects. I’m a big fan of Rosemary’s Baby, Race with the Devil, The Strangers, and Drag me to Hell. A movie can have zero gore and still scare the religion out of you. LOL

      I am a fan of Escape from New York. That’s a neat, neat show. It has been so long since I saw Tango and Cash I have forgotten the plot. LOL Thanks for stopping by. I enjoyed your comment.

      • Make sure you watch the 1954 “Them” – its the one with the giant ants and was the first of the “nuclear monster” movies. I think there’s at least one other movie out with the same name – can’t vouch for their quality.

        • Duly noted. The only recent “Them” I know of is the french film called “Ils.” The American remake of this movie is called “The Strangers.” I will, however, make sure to watch the 1954 version. Thanks for clarifying. 😀

  9. Great post, Catie! I generally don’t like horror films but I am a big fan of ‘The Thing’ and the Alien franchise. IMO they are more suspense than horror. Both have great stories. All the ‘slasher’ type movies that have degenerated into basically the same story are just blah and to me just reasons to watch people die in gruesome ways with no real plot besides a psycho wants to kill people in gruesome ways. ‘The Thing’ is on a different plane than those types of movies. Plus the special effects are impressive. If you like ‘The Thing’ I would recommend the movie ‘Event Horizon’ (although it combines a lot of slasher elements). It has the same kind of desperate and desolate suspenseful feel. Being in space probably helps. :)

    Kurt Russell rocks! My favorite Kurt Russell movies besides ‘The Thing’ are the ‘Escape’ series, Tombstone and the somewhat cliche and cheesy ‘Executive Decision’. It was kind of the B side of ‘Air Force One’ but Kurt rocked it as an analyst turned special forces team leader. Goldie’s lucky. 😉

    • That’s interesting that you like The Thing and Alien but not horror movies in general. I enjoy both The Thing and Alien. I think both are among the best scary movies every made. I have never seen Event Horizon but will look into it.

      As for slasher movies, I think they play into the fear most of us have of a killer who seems unkillable and who seems to have no reason for what he does. If you notice the themes of people encountering the crazy killer when they take a wrong turn, are alone in a strange house babysitting, or are in an isolated rural area, you’ll see places and situations that sort of scare us all. And that’s buy armchair analysis.

      I love Tombstone, but I sometimes totally enjoy cheesy cliché stuff because it is comfortable. Yes, Goldie is lucky.

      Thanks for stopping by.

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